Archive for August, 2010

August 31, 2010

Katherine J Lee

Katherine J Lee had a great idea to do blog interview swaps. I had the privileged to ask her some questions about her creative process, Etsy ventures and how she makes it all work. She is just as lovely as her creations.

1)  What is the name of your business and why that name? What is your website, blog, FB etc? Where can we buy your product?
I create organic and hand-printed home goods under my own name – Katherine J Lee. I wasn’t sure originally what I wanted to make on Etsy because my interests were so varied.

I’ve actually been revising the way I approach my shop, and in the next month I’m planning on launching more of a “collection” under a new Etsy storefront: Playing from Home. It will include a carefully edited, more comprehensive line of things I already make and some new items as well.

My website:
My blog:
My facebook:
My twitter:
My shop:

2) What got you crafting?
I had a friend in college who showed me how to work a sewing machine, and beyond that I taught myself all the skills I needed to make everything in my shop. I bought books and scoured the internet to pick up screenprinting techniques, sewing basics, whatever. I took apart things I already owned and put them back together.

I love crafting! I learn at my own pace, I dabble. Sometimes I make horribly ugly things that will never, ever see the light of day.

3) Do you remember your first sale and what it was?
My first sale was actually on my birthday! I woke up, checked my e-mail, and I was instantly elated! Then I totally panicked, because I hadn’t really thought out my packaging or shipping. It’s a little embarrassing but also heartening to think back on those days…

4) Can you tell me about your art/craft? What is it that you do, what materials do you like to use, where does your inspiration come from?
I make home goods using organic, eco-friendly materials and processes. I really do everything myself— I print, cut and sew everything from my own design! My designs have been inspired lately by Japanese textiles, the dip-dye and muted tie-dye trend, traditional henna patterns, animals, and cute things that pop into my head.

As for materials, the only things I buy are fabric and ink. The fabric is Fair Trade certified, made in India from organic cotton.  The ink is water-based and environmentally friendly. I’m happy to offer products that I can vouch for every step of the way.

Of course I am very affected by art and design, but I find a lot of satisfaction in the actual work of craftivism and the handmade movement.

I’m going to get on my soapbox for a second, because responsible consuming is important to me. It makes me sad to read about terrible labor practices in other parts of the world where people are not paid enough to eat or live or make their own life decisions. And the products are prevalent! The whole scandal in May with five Foxconn workers committing suicide in one month made a splash in US headlines because Foxconn makes parts for Apple iPhones and HP computers.

Talk about a fly in your soup, San Francisco.

It’s awful that sweatshop products are so available, but at the very least, that puts the burden of reading labels on consumers. As a consumer, I take care to support businesses that guarantee living wages and conditions to the people who make those products.

I feel lucky that I can choose how to make my living. And proud that most of my profits go back into the business, a small portion goes to my personal savings, and that’s it.

5) What is your situation? Are you a full time artist, or do you have another job that supports your crafting ventures? Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?
I came out to California after doing my undergrad in Massachusetts. I was always pushed to achieve academically, but I had just been awarded a wonderful fellowship that would allow me to pursue art any way I wanted, so I hunkered down and started teaching myself all the arts and crafts I’d neglected at school. My Etsy shop began as a way to fund my hobbyist tendencies. I’m lucky to now have the full support of my family and partner. My self-funded hobby is becoming a business I really love pouring my energy and heart into.

In the near-future I’m actually applying to full-time grad school for an MFA in fiction writing. I know everything I pursue looks pretty solitary, but I really enjoy working for myself! The dream would be a house in the woods with a biiig studio, making enough money from a combination of writing and crafting to support myself and my family.

And really, I would like a dog and cats.

6) Do you design and make things for yourself, or are you swayed by what is popular and you know would sell even though it might not be your most artistic aspiration or creation?
Ha! Initially I struggled with the idea of making items with “mass-appeal.” Owls, for example, are very trendy right now, and I was hesitant at first to put an owl-printed pillow case in my shop. I think I was resisting being a follower of a trend rather than setting one of my own. But I’m over it! I mean, why not enjoy the party while it’s still happening? J I think it’s great to be allowed to contribute and compete with huge Targets and West Elms and what-not that are printing millions of identical trendy pillow cases.

And when you really break it down, my customer base is already whittled down to A) People who use the internet for shopping, B) People who enjoy handmade products made by independent artists, C) People who are aware of Etsy, D) People who have somehow found my shop from tens of thousands of other shops on Etsy, E) People who are willing to pay a little more to support organic and independent endeavors, and finally they pick out something with an Owl on it. By that point I’m grateful they’ve found me and love something I’ve made!

7) What have you made recently that you love or are super proud of?
Hmm… I have some new things in the works that are ocean and Japanese-inspired. I think I learn so much with every project that I am always most proud of my newest projects J

8) Have you decided on a formula that you use to measure your success, or do you just tend to go with the flow? What goals do you set for yourself, if any?
I do tend to go with the flow, but I make concerted efforts along the way to make sure I’m making and hitting milestones. The goal in August was to hit 50 sales and I’m just one sale away. I would love to hit 1000 shop hearts (I currently have 967 hearts, 453 just in the last two months!) and I would love to have over 100 sales by the end of the year. I started my shop on the tail end of the holiday shopping season last year, so I’m planning, printing, and sewing my butt off in anticipation of the upcoming one!

9) How do you promote your store? What kind of channels do you use for self-promotion? Are there any specific channels that worked or didn’t work for you so far?
I re-list 4 -12 items every day, and I try to put new items in my store once a week. Relisting keeps my products more accessible in search results on Etsy, which are organized by how recently items have been listed.

I have trouble blogging, tweeting, and facebooking on a regular basis—I seem to blurt out all my news and updates at once! I also hate the idea of spamming my friends and followers. But with all the internet noise out there, it’s far more likely that only 2 or 3 people are really noticing when I have a monthly sale, and the rest of my announcements are getting buried.

Giveaways on other bloggers’ sites generate a bit of traffic but I haven’t seen any sales from them yet. I think approaching bloggers and finding & fielding wholesale opportunities is the next step in growing my business.

10) What blogs and websites do you follow?
Oh boy. I spend a lot of time reading artist blogs from start to finish. But here are a couple I’ve found helpful and inspiring.

11) What is your creative process? Do you draw first, or do you gather your materials and feel the textures and see the colors before you come up with a design?
Initially, drawing always helps me cull the good ideas from the bad. But I find I do need to actually start printing before I’m sure of what colors I love on particular fabrics. I’m always looking for people to help me edit my ideas, but in the end I trust myself to shape my own product lines. J

12) What tips would you share with fellow artists and crafters that would help them make more successful? What do you think worked for you, and what didn’t when you first started selling?

  1. 1. Value your time and skills. They are unique and worth getting paid for. In money, not mere praise!
  2. 2. No one will do your work for you.
  3. 3. Everyone is just making it up as they go along.

The last one I’ve heard from a lot of designers and artists I admire, and I really take to heart. I got a lot of negative criticism in the beginning and I made mistakes trying to fit someone else’s idea of what my business should offer and represent. I think it’s OK now to do what I think is right, be as productive as I can every day, and set my own expectations.

August 24, 2010

Rock Make…. uh, ok?

Yesterday was the Rock Make street fair/festival that was held on Treat avenue between 17th and 18th street in the Mission. It was my first outside fair and I was definitely nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I forgot my new displays at home, so I had to send my bff/helper/mirror girl Nancy to go back to get them. I worked on them over the weekend and really wanted to rock them out. Thanks for going back, baby!!

The weather was great, the vendors were super friendly, and the music was great. People started trickling in at around noon. I was optimistic about sales because the urban hipster crowd really seemed to get my style and I was getting a lot of positive feedback, but at the end of the day, my sales were poor. I think that we needed a lot bigger crowd of actual shoppers to up the sales. Taking into account the 9AM – 6PM day plus the vendor fee, I have to admit that I lost money big time. I did, however, gain some great experience and just being a part of a crafts fair elevated my spirits. I also got to be fair neighbors with a couple of amazing artists – Tessa Kemp Jewelry and 5733.

Check out how totally awesome my set up looked.

August 17, 2010

ROCK MAKE, baby!

I’m super excited, and a little nervous, to participate in the 3rd Rock Make Festival this Sunday, August 22nd. It takes place in the heart of the Mission district on Treat Avenue @ 18th street in San Francisco. I will be in booth #7 if you want to say hi.

IF, by any chance you follow this blog (very unlikely?), and you come to see me at the event, give me the secret password COUPON code “BLOG”, and you will receive 20% off your purchase.

It should be a fun-filled Sunday with bouncy castles, beer and tons of local arts and crafts for sale.

August 17, 2010

I’m in love… again.

I’m changing the way I get around.

I decided that I will bike to work now on, and really anywhere I can. My new bike is Giant Dash and it’s yellow and silver and white and oh so pretty.
I can’t stop giggling when I think about it;  I hope that the honeymoon phase lasts us a lifetime. ( I also hope that my ass will look great in no time from riding up the hills. )

August 12, 2010

Emmerson Made = WOW

I have recently stumbled upon an amazing USA-made clothing/accessories line that started in NYC and came to bloom on a farm.

The style is fun bohemian urban chick, and it’s right in my wheelhouse.

I dream that one day, I too will be like Emmerson Made. Full time successful crafter living on a farm with chickens and ducks.

Check them out to fall in love.

August 3, 2010

First sale!!!!

Bluebird wooden ovals with birdie necklace

Bluebird wooden ovals with birdie necklace

Today I got my first Etsy sale! YAY for me!

Amy from Iowa bought this awesome wooden ovals necklace.

I hope that she loves it as much as I loved making it.